Hialeah man accused of beating Republican canvasser now faces additional felony charge

Prosecutors on Monday added a second charge against Javier Lopez, the man accused of beating up a Republican canvasser in Hialeah, a case that has garnered national attention after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio claimed the attack was politically motivated.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, in a court hearing on Monday, filed formal charges: aggravated battery with great bodily harm, and added an additional count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon — because Lopez and another man allegedly sicced two German Shepherd dogs on the canvasser.

Lopez, who did not appear in person, pleaded not guilty through his defense attorney. Lopez is being held in jail because he’s also accused of violating probation on two previous felony cases. The Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office, however, is challenging the violation because the Florida Department of Corrections mistakenly gave Lopez a letter saying he was no longer on probation.

Hialeah police say Lopez, 25, and Jonathan Casanova attacked Christopher Monzon as he was canvassing the neighborhood on the afternoon of Oct. 23 on the 100 block of East 60th Street. According to Lopez’s arrest report, he allegedly told Monzon, “You can’t pass by here. This is my neighborhood.” There was no mention of politics in his arrest report.

Cops say Lopez brutally beat Monzon, causing his right eye to swell shut and a fractured orbital bone, and forcing him to be hospitalized. Casanova is accused of kicking Monzon — it was Casanova’s dogs who were allegedly sicced on the victim.

Lopez’s mother, a registered Republican, told the Miami Herald that she talked to her son in jail and he said the attack was not political. When he was first interviewed by police, Monzon — who has a history of advocating for white supremacy — did not initially mention politics as a reason for the Oct. 23 attack.

Javier Lopez
Javier Lopez

The next morning, his father called into a local radio station and said his son had been attacked while canvassing. After talking to the father, the Republican senator Rubio tweeted that Monzon had been “brutally attacked by 4 animals who told him Republicans weren’t allowed in their neighborhood.”

That afternoon, when Hialeah detectives went to interview Monzon at the hospital, was when he claimed the attack was politically motivated, records show.

Monzon, in a speech in Miami Springs on Sunday, claimed the attackers said “we don’t want you Republicans giving out your campaign propaganda here in our neighborhood.” In his speech, Monzon repeated the claim about the two German shepherds, although his father told the Miami Herald that there had actually only been one dog involved.

Casanova’s arrest report did include those allegations raised by Monzon. Casanova did not give a statement to police on what led to the fight.

Lopez has remained jailed since his arrest, even though normally he’d be entitled to be released on a bond. He’d been on probation for two felony cases — one for stealing a car, the other for stealing beer from a Hialeah restaurant.

His probation was not due to end until 2024. But in May, Lopez had been given a letter saying his probation had been completed, according to testimony in court on Monday.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Zachary James listens to attorneys on Oct. 31, 2022. He is presiding over the case of Javier Lopez, who is accused of beating up a Republican canvasser in Hialeah.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Zachary James listens to attorneys on Oct. 31, 2022. He is presiding over the case of Javier Lopez, who is accused of beating up a Republican canvasser in Hialeah.

Assistant Public Defender Aileen Penate Hernandez told the judge that Lopez shouldn’t be held in jail on suspicion of a probation violation because he did not realize he was still on probation.

“From my understanding, [the letter] was actually handed to him by the probation officer,” she told Circuit Judge Zachary James.

A Florida corrections supervisor, Marie Ropizar, told the judge that the letter was generated automatically because someone entered the wrong information into the computer system. “The termination letter was a clerical error,” she testified.

The judge will rule on the issue on Tuesday.

Assistant State Attorney Santiago Aroca said it doesn’t matter that Lopez believed he was no longer on probation — only a court can end someone’s supervision.

“Just because he believed he was not on probation … that doesn’t allow him to commit crimes,” Aroca said.